Tips on Saving Money buying Cuban Cigars

When you mention Cuba most people seem to automatically think “Cuban Cigars”. While there are quite a few different brands of actual Cuban cigars, the Cuban government knows that no matter the brand people will buy them. Being in Cuba with a husband that has started to become a cigar aficionado, we of course had to hunt out some Cuban’s to add to his humidor. Before we left I quickly brushed up on what we were allowed to bring back with us. For return to the USA we could bring back one box of sealed Cuban cigars with the government’s official seal on it. This did not sound too bad. If we were going Canada to Cuba and back then we would be able to bring more cigars with us. However, as the US is the most stringent, we had to stick to their guidelines. (As of late 2021 the rules have changed again – keep reading for more on that.)

Arriving in Cuba…

When we finally arrived in Cuba we checked into our Airbnb and then headed down to meet our driver and guide who would be with us for the next day and a half. As the guide and driver were flexible to what we wanted to do, we made sure to let them know that we needed to get some cigars.

As we had landed late in the day, and learned pretty much everywhere is closed on Fridays…except for the cigar shop that was located in Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, super touristy, yet open! We headed to the fort after exploring the city a bit. The gate staff stopped us and tried to get us to pay entry but our guide spoke with them and promised we would only go to the cigar shop so they relented. I wish that we had time to explore the fort as it seemed really interesting but we stayed true to our word and walked along the left wall all the way to the shop. 

Visiting a Cuban Cigar Shop…

Once inside we were greeted by the world’s longest Cuban cigar which snaked around the entire shop inside a plastic case. While I was tracing the cigar to try to find the beginning of it, my husband had honed in on the cigars he was after, the Montecristco. However, they were more expensive than they are at home – must be the tourist price – he mused to me as he browsed all the other cigars that lined the walls. He decided on a sample pack that had one of every major Cuban cigar. As we left, our guide mentioned that it was one of the most expensive stores in the city. Fortunately, we had planned to be with him the next day and visit the town of Vinales. Another town where we could purchase cigars.

Vinales, Cuba…

Bright and early the next day, we all met up again and headed on our drive out to Vinales. We stopped at a Tobacco Plantation along the way. A mama hen and her chicks greeted us as we all pilled out of the car and headed into a questionable looking shack. “Coffee! Cigars!” a boisterous gentleman said as we entered. One thing I had not looked at before coming was when the tobacco growing season was and it turned out that we were there in the off season so we were the only tourists around. Nothing too wrong with that as our hosts provided as much coffee as we could drink and as many cigars as we could smoke while walking around back to see how they dried the cigar leaves before receiving a rolling demonstration. Once the education was done, it was time for the hard sell – U$ 2 per cigar. 

We were shocked to learn about the price and inquired about how it was so low. Our guide explained that tobacco growers grow for the government who then takes 80% of the produced crop to turn into cigars at their factories. Each farm produces leaves for a specific brand and they happen to produce for Habana. The 20% that the farms are left with, they are allowed to roll and sell them but they cannot be sold under the brand name so you are technically getting the same Habana product but at 1 / 10th of the price (if not more). 

It made perfect sense and my husband’s eyes lit up. I however had to remind him that as per the current US government’s laws, the cigars had to be in a sealed, government stickered box and these clearly are not. 

But, wait…

Right at that moment, the tobacco host pulled out a little piece of worn paper that stated the US government’s rules on bringing cigars in the country. Highlighted was the point that buying from them actually fit the rule. While this little sheet of paper is very handy, there was no date on it and with how worn it was I was skeptical, to say the least. In the end, we relented and purchased a couple cigars, after all, if customs takes them can you really argue at $2 per stick? For the four we purchased, it was worth the risk. 

Once in Vinales, we found the one cigar store, but the prices were even worse than they were in Havana! So, at this point we gave up our hunt. Our guide said that if we had come to Havana earlier in the week then we would have time to explore the different shops in town, take a tour of the government factories, and price things out. Unfortunately, we were leaving the next morning we would just have to be happy with what we had. So, my tip for you – do your research!

Heading home…

On our way to Miami, we had to fill out a customs declaration form on the plane and there was nothing stating that the cigars had to be in a government sealed box! Therefore, as soon as we landed and I had cell coverage I jumped on US Customs & Border website to see what the rules on cigars were, only to find out that they had changed. In the week since I looked, we were now allowed to bring back Cuban’s and there was nothing about the box having to have a government seal on it!

As of late 2021, it is now illegal to bring any tobacco products or alcohol back from Cuba to the USA so the government keeps flipping / flopping on what they want to do. However, if you are traveling to Cuba but returning directly to Canada, the UK, or the EU then you can bring back up to 50 cigars. If you have to make a connecting flight try to book one that does not go through the USA or if you have to go through the USA then make sure your luggage is checked all the way through to your final destination or else there is an extremely good chance they will be confiscated when you go through US customs. Based on this – keep watching for updates!


If you are planning on heading to Cuba just make sure you know what the rules are when you arrive because the internet is terrible so you may not be able to double check while you are in the country.

If you are headed to Cuba, no matter where you are coming from and are planning on visiting Havana, my guide is the perfect addition to your trip with lots of tips, tricks, hints, how to book, who to book, and more! You can find it here

Female Abroad

Female Abroad